views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Dead Static
Etcetera Theatre
12th August 2012


With two men in a confined shuttlecraft hurtling through space, it's easy to compare ManMoth Productions' latest show to Red Dwarf. But this claustrophobic character comedy shares just as much in common with classic buddy comedies such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles as it does with Grant and Naylor's creation.

The premise is simple - in a distant future ruled by the shadowy Syndicate, two strangers wake up in a spaceship locked on course for the asteroid belt near Mars, seemingly left to die by the fascist dictatorship. So erudite and slightly effete smuggler Tyler (Cliff Chapman) and overexcited, childish layabout Gary (Adam Joselyn) must work together to find a way to survive.

Obviously the stupid and the stupider is a common dynamic in double acts, but it's Chapman and Joselyn's commitment to Steve Jordan's material that really sells it. They are totally unafraid to go crazy in their roles, overacting to the hilt to milk every single laugh from the script and it really works.

Joselyn's manic energy, all arms and mugging, would be considerably less endearing in weaker hands. But there is just enough sadness behind the manchild's eyes to make him thoroughly likeable and sympathetic. Chapman's Tyler, on the other hand, is pompous, arrogant and easily frustrated. He flips between menacingly exasperated and impotently pathetic throughout and the more the ante is upped, the funnier he becomes.

Outwith the OTT performances, The jokes owe a lot to the very British school of japes and wordplay, with a number of Blackadder-style similes stretched wonderfully far beyond breaking point. Douglas Adams' voice is heard, as is Grant/Naylor's, with a pinch of Men Behaving Badly's Simon Nye. This is a comedy writer brought up right, learning from the best, but allowing himself his own spin on things.

Only in a couple of cases does it show its age (or lack thereof) by dropping in pop-culture references such as Pat Sharpe which hit a certain nostalgia button in the 25-30 year olds, but don't seem to do much else for others. Ditto a slow-motion Matrix punch seemed so out of date, it could be found at the bottom of Dave Lister's laundry basket.

I came away from the play thinking there were a lot more stories to be told with Tyler and Gary. Not only that, but I rather hope to see more of them. It would be a great shame if this is the only time audiences get to see the dynamic duo and with all the contrivances sci-fi allows, there is no reason why it should be.

Dead Static ran from 10th to 12th August 2012 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe. It then ran from 11th to 15th December 2012 at the Hen and Chickens in Islington.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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